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Culture and Cognition

The study of culture has been a part of psychology since the work of Wundt in the 1880’s. But whilst Wundt argued that cognition and culture should be studied separately, more recent approaches have suggested that any account of one without the other is necessarily incomplete. There are many ways of understanding this interdependence of mind and culture. The Culture and Cognition Group is particularly interested in the role that evolutionary, developmental and ecological factors might play in regulating the connections between cognition and culture – both in terms of which representations people acquire in and across cultures, and how and with what success those representations circulate in that culture. The approach is interdisciplinary, and is particularly informed by the synergies between cognitive science, social psychology and anthropology. The Culture and Cognition Group has close links with LSE’s Programme in Culture and Cognition.

The kinds of research that we are engaged in on these topics range from foundational and philosophical investigations of the nature of mind as an evolved and cultural phenomenon, through to empirical and theoretical investigations of community, cognitive and cultural representations of animals and food, religion, gender, race, and the self.

Ongoing research projects include monographs on cognition and culture from an evolutionary perspective (Franks), and on the cultural and cognitive significance of literacy, as well as investigations of knowledge in context (Jovchelovitch) and the construction of representations under conditions of multiculture (Howarth).

Our PhD students are an integral part of the Culture and Cognition Group, bringing their particular cultural understandings and contributing their own perspectives to the debates in which we are engaged. They are carrying out research on a diverse range of topics –

• the roles of emotion and cognition in the spread of representations of “religious sacrifice” in Israel ;
• the development in British children of social representations of Muslims
• the cognitive and cultural ecology of racial categorisation
• the intuitive conceptual representations of social categories, with an emphasis on gender and alternative gender identities (transgender) as a test case
• how people understand and (fail to) resolve contradictions in their beliefs and actions, in particular between being carnivores on the one hand, but avowing to be "animal lovers" on the other
• differences in 'holistic vs analytic' cognition across religious groups (Buddhists and Anglicans) in the UK
• evolutionary and cultural factors in self construal